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Bayer must pay $2 billion in Roundup cancer case

May 14, 2019

Bayer-owned Monsanto has been hit with its third jury verdict in California tying its Roundup weed killer to cancer. Bayer faces more than 13,400 Roundup-related lawsuits in the United States.

Roundup products are seen for sale at a hardware store in San Rafael, California
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Edelson

A California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay $2 billion (€1.78 billion) to a couple who claimed the agribusiness giant's Roundup weed killer caused their cancer.

Monday's verdict is the third consecutive one in a California court against Monsanto, which was bought last year by German chemical company Bayer.

Read more: Bayer investors angry over plummeting share price 

Two previous jury rulings awarded $80 million to a man and $289 million to a former groundskeeper, though a judge later reduced the latter ruling to $89 million.

The state court jury in Oakland found that Alva and Alberta Pilliod's use of the weed killer for over 30 years at their home and other properties caused them to contract non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Lawyers for the couple called the $2.05 billion in punitive and compensatory damages a "historic" ruling. 

Legal experts said a judge would likely significantly lower the payout.

Bayer maintains Roundup is safe

Bayer has said it would appeal the verdict. The company faces more than 13,000 lawsuits in the United States claiming that glyphosate-based weed killers pose health and environmental problems. 

In April, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reaffirmed that the active ingredient found in Roundup is safe.

Read more: Opinion: Chemicals giant Bayer stuck in Monsanto trap 

"The consensus among leading health regulators worldwide is that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic," Bayer said in a statement.

The company added that none of the California courts have considered the EPA's findings.

The pile of cases against Monsanto rely on assessments of California health authorities and a 2015 finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that the chemical probably causes cancer.

Read more: Glyphosate: EU agency must release censored study, court says

The lawsuits claim Monsanto deliberately manipulated science, regulatory agencies and the media to hide knowledge that glyphosate is carcinogenic.

Bayer admits other 'watch lists'

The latest case in California comes as Bayer is under pressure in France after investigators there opened a probe into Monsanto for compiling "watch lists" of journalists and lawmakers to influence their positions on pesticides.

Bayer apologized over the weekend, but said the practice was not illegal. On Monday, the company said similar lists were likely drawn up in other European countries.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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